Saanich council OKs building near Uptown mall

A new residential/commercial building near Uptown shopping centre at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue will go ahead.

In a 7-1 vote, Saanich councillors gave their blessing to the Abstract Developments proposal near Uptown for a development that will have 60 residential apartment units built over about 12,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

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“We’re excited to be back in the community. We finished a [townhouse] project, City Park, down the road last year,” said Mike Miller, Abstract’s president.

“We think the Uptown district is off to a really good start and we’re happy to support that.”

The proposed development will have five storeys along the Boleskine Road frontage. The ground floor of the building will be office and commercial space, with four storeys of residential units above.

Abstract was seeking a substantial variance in the parking requirement — reducing the total number of spaces provided to 71 from the 147 required under the bylaw.

The company committed to a covenant that would allow only one of the three commercial units to be used for retail at any given time with the remaining two restricted to general office use — reducing the parking requirement for the commercial units.

With the revisions, the total parking requirement under the bylaw was 147 (57 commercial and 90 residential). Council agreed to 71 spaces (seven commercial and 64 residential) being provided.

A reduction in parking is needed to keep the units affordable, Miller said.

“The more parking you build, the less affordable you can make them,” he said.

“You want affordable but at $45,000 per parking stall, how do you do that when people want to have a unit for $199,000.”

Developments have to look 30 years down the road when it comes to determining realistic parking requirements, he said.

Abstract agreed to a number of initiatives to mitigate the reduction in parking, including end-of-trip facilities — showers, change rooms and lockers — for the commercial units for employees who cycle to work.

It will also create an alternative mobility fund for commercial-unit employees, which could be used to buy bus passes, bikes or car-share memberships, and provision of 60 vouchers (one per residence) for car-share memberships.

Commercial parking spaces will be converted to residential visitor parking after business hours and commercial tenants will be given the first right of refusal to rent parking stalls from residential owners.

Saanich planning staff supported the application, noting the site is located within walking distance of amenities and services, and is close to the Douglas Street transit corridor and the Galloping Goose Regional Trail.

Saanich staff supported the application.

Abstract will contribute $60,000 ($1,000 per unit) toward affordable housing.

Fifteen people spoke at the public hearing and were pretty evenly split for and against. Most of the concerns were about traffic and parking.

Coun. Vic Derman was opposed and Coun. Nichola Wade was absent.

Mayor Frank Leonard, who supported the proposal, noted Whittier is a bit of a unique street because it’s industrial on one side and residential on the other.

“In terms of the land-use change, the key word is change,” Leonard said.

“Not only are we changing land use, but in time, we’re going to be changing demographics and lifestyles in the Uptown area. There’s going to be all ages and people who actually don’t depend on a car either to get to work or to be at work.”

The bylaw will come back for final approval after all the covenants are tied down.

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